Crooked Media - What A Day: Azar-y state of affairs

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

-Deep Thoughts by Mark Warner channeling his inner Jack Handey

The Trump administration abruptly removed the doctor who led the federal agency working on a coronavirus vaccine because he pushed back against the administration's efforts to promote President Trump’s favorite unproven drugs. Now he has become a whistleblower: “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way."

  • Dr. Rick Bright said he was dismissed as director of HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) because he insisted that the government invest funding into scientifically vetted treatments, vaccine research, and critical supplies, and resisted widespread use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus symptoms. (On Tuesday, a panel of experts at NIH specifically advised against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of clinical trials.) Bright believes he was transferred to a smaller role at NIH as an act of retaliation. He said he’ll request an investigation into the politicization of BARDA, including how the administration has pressured scientists to “fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit.” A vague but stunning accusation of political corruption hobbling the government’s response to one of the most deadly crises the country has ever faced.
  • While you’re lifting your jaw off the floor: Newly identified coronavirus deaths in California have shifted our understanding of when the virus arrived in the U.S. Until today, the earliest known death from COVID-19 in the U.S. was on February 26, in Seattle, WA. Officials in Santa Clara County, CA, have now confirmed a coronavirus-linked death on February 6, when testing was still tightly limited by CDC criteria. 
  • The news underscores how long the government waited to shuffle into action. Part of the lag is reportedly attributable to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who waited weeks to brief Trump about the threat and made overblown claims about his agency’s progress establishing a testing regime. Azar’s office also shut down FDA chief Stephen Hahn’s efforts to call diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies in January, to address possible shortages of PPE and other supplies; Azar thought it would alarm the industry, and make the administration look unprepared. (None of those fuckups absolve Trump, who, upon receiving his first coronavirus briefing from Azar, yelled at him about the flavored e-cigarette ban. A few weeks later Trump called Azar and threatened to fire CDC official Nancy Messonnier, after she told reporters the agency was preparing for a potential pandemic.)

In Congress, House Democrats have backed off of a plan to change the House rules to allow proxy voting tomorrow, after Republicans objected.

  • "We're dreaming up ways to keep us out of Washington longer,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a 70 year-old man. The House will vote to pass the interim relief package tomorrow, and a bipartisan task force will look into remote-voting possibilities for the future. 
  • In other looking-forward news, CDC Director Robert Redfield took a moment to remind us all that a second wave of infections could hit in the fall, dovetail with flu season, and have even more devastating consequences. Looking directly into the sun, Trump and Vice President Pence reportedly took a moment to call Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) and praise him for his decision to reopen Georgia on Friday, over the advice of public-health experts and the objections of his state’s mayors. (Trump denied that report in his briefing today, saying he told Kemp he “strongly disagreed” with the decision.)

Remember during Trump’s impeachment, a mere 400 years ago, when we learned that Trump fired an experienced career diplomat because she wouldn’t go along with his corrupt Ukraine scheme? We’ve just seen him do the same thing to a career scientist in a key public health role, in the middle of the worst public-health crisis in our lifetimes. Somebody ask Susan Collins if she still thinks Trump learned his lesson. 

So far, Six Feet Apart with Alex Wagner has covered the way coronavirus has impacted grocery shopping and our food supply, the rituals we have around celebrating life and grieving death, and even buying drugs. And tomorrow we’ll have the latest episode on our hands about sports! Hear how elite athletes are keeping their minds sharp and muscles strong in a moment of social isolation and deferred dreams. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts→ 

Incarcerated people who are already vulnerable to infection are being put to work in pandemic supply chains, leaving them at even higher risk. Though prisons across the country have become coronavirus incubators, where thousands of inmates have fallen ill, nearly every state has also drafted inmates into production lines for their pandemic responses. In New York, inmates are bottling hand sanitizer they’re not allowed to use. In Florida, they’re sewing masks for prison guards, but don’t yet have access to masks themselves. Federal prisons, which have been hit particularly hard and have implemented quarantine measures, are still sending inmates to work in factories that do not adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Those production lines will fuel disastrous outbreaks in the prisons themselves, which will inevitably spread to larger communities.

President Trump tweeted that the Navy should fire on Iranian boats if they “harass” U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, which is not how the Navy’s rules of engagement work. Sure, it’s been a few weeks since Trump gave us all a reason to worry about an impending war with Iran, why not now! The tweet followed on the heels of Iran’s announcement that it had launched the country’s first military satellite into orbit. Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten told reporters that the tweet was just meant as a warning to Iran, and that Navy commanders know not to actually act on it. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Trump probably meant the tweet as a distraction from COVID-19, which sounds like the key takeaway here.

It's Earth Day’s 50th birthday! To celebrate, don’t be trash. Stay home (if you can), protect your community, and protect the planet. Let’s make sure it doesn’t take another 50 years to defend what we love for generations to come. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

Young Defend Our Future activists are fighting every day to build a future that works for everyone — whether demanding just relief from the coronavirus or fighting for lasting climate action. And now we’re finding new ways for young activists to raise their voices safely and effectively to demand the changes we need.

Bring some activist chic vibes to your FaceTime dates and Zoom parties. Chip in $20 to support these fierce young heroes with your own “Don’t Be Trash, Protect the Planet” t-shirt.

Stacey Abrams and Andrew Yang have launched a campaign to provide $1,000 in direct payments to 100,000 families receiving SNAP benefits. 

A24 is auctioning off props to raise money for New York City charities. Buy the Midsommar dress to fight coronavirus! Wear the Midsommar dress in every Zoom meeting for the rest of quarantine! A win-win, here.

Spotify has made it possible for musicians to link to their own fundraisers, or to COVID-19 relief fundraisers, from their artist landing pages. 

Urban animals are just having an incredible time.

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